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Two decades before a bunch of geeky American boys messing around on computers created social media, an earlier generation of geeky kids (mostly boys) messing around on guitars created another sort of social network. At its heart was the kind of music you wouldn’t hear on commercial radio or, except in the wee hours of Monday mornings, on MTV. It came on the heels of 1970s punk rock, and while it owed something to punk’s velocity and sneer, the spirit was experimental, as if all the old rules had been swept away. Ragged guitar riffs, ferocious decibel levels, and unpredictable song structures were its trademarks, but the sounds—from the percussively headlong to the distorted and depressive—proliferated as fast as the labels for them. Under the various headings of punk, post-punk, hardcore, alt-rock, underground, noise rock, post-rock, and, most generic, indie rock, bands such as Mission of Burma, Minor Threat, Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, and Slint laid down the soundtrack of an alternative culture. If you were over the age of 30 when the Berlin Wall fell, this music probably seemed pretty much pointless. If, on the other hand, you were in your teens or 20s, especially if you were a skinny white male and wore glasses, it’s just possible that indie rock sounded like community—salvation, even.
Everywhere, the line between fan and performer was paper-thin. The approach was anarchic and participatory: the idea (at least theoretically) was that anyone could get a band together, learn to play, and maybe even press a record and take the show on the road. At the same time, indie music was a judgmental world of cognoscenti, of teenage boys disputing Talmudically about guitar tunings and feedback. Hole-in-the-wall venues, alternative record stores, ragtag independent record labels, and copy shops incubated a subculture where outsiders became insiders and found one another. Flyers on telephone poles were its smoke signals, xeroxed fanzines were its telegraph wires, bringing news from far-flung scenes. Before the breakthrough success in 1991 of Nirvana—whose album Nevermind topped the Billboard charts and eventually sold more than 30 million copies worldwide—raw and abrasive rock, by definition, meant tastes and sounds that could never become popular.
Via The Atlantic
Titled “Top 50 by Nirvana,” this list of favourite albums by the group includes plenty of selections that will be familiar to the band’s fans: The Vaselines, Sonic Youth, The Raincoats, The Wipers, Leadbelly. But there are some fascinating surprises from Public Enemy to Mazzy Star to Rites of Spring.
Producer and musician Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, Foo Fighters, Green Day) looks back at his long career, from early days at Smart Studios and the smash success of Nirvana’s Nevermind, to making music with his own band Garbage.
KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK invites you to experience Kurt’s life, art and mind through his own unique lens, bringing you as close to the generation-defining icon as it’s possible to get. This first ever, fully-authorized documentary feature blends Cobain’s personal archive of art, music (both his most famous and some that’s never been heard), written word, and never-before-seen home movies, with animation and revelatory interviews from his family and closest confidantes.
Following Kurt from his earliest years in Aberdeen, WA, through the height of his fame, it creates an intense and powerful cinematic insight into an artist who craved the spotlight even as he rejected the trappings of fame. Those of Kurt’s generation will learn things about him they never knew. Those who’ve discovered the man and his music more recently will understand what makes Kurt the lasting icon that he is. Just like the legendary frontman of Nirvana himself, KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK is authentic, visceral and unflinching. It will get into your head and stay there long after the end credits roll.
The film is being shown in 75 cinemas across the country, with screenings in all 10 provinces on May 7. For a full list of participating theatres, go here. To purchase tickets, go here.
From Rolling Stone:
Dave Grohl rose to the occasion of being this year’s official Record Store Day Ambassador by putting out a special vinyl release: Songs From the Laundry Room, which collects four solo recordings he made while still a member of Nirvana. The tracks are raw-sounding, early versions of the Foo Fighters songs “Alone + Easy Target” and “Big Me” (recorded in 1992 and 1994 respectively), as well as a cover of Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America” from 1991 and the previously unreleased (and notably Nirvana-esque) “Empty Handed,” recorded the same day as “Alone.” Prior to its release, he told Rolling Stone that these recordings – which are streaming below – were the seeds for what would become Foo Fighters.
Side A: 1) Alone + Easy Target 2) Big Me
Side B: 1) Kids In America 2) Empty Handed
Fine songs covered by computers continued! YouTube user Arganalth has created a new video and song featuring a number of floppy and hard disk drives playing Nirvana‘s 1991 hit song “Smells Like Teen Spirit“.
…and here’s the original.
One summer a few years ago, Frances Bean Cobain worked as an intern in the New York offices of Rolling Stone. Frances – the daughter of Nirvana singer-guitarist Kurt Cobain and an executive producer of the new HBO documentary on his life, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck – was “a 15-year-old Goth kid, so stoked,” she recalls with a laugh during a recent interview for the cover story in our new issue. She remembers providing research assistance on a cover about the Jonas Brothers – and working in a cubicle across from a wall with a giant painting of Kurt. “Yeah,” Frances says with a grin and mock-exasperation, “looking at my dad every day.” (Preview the cover story and listen to a previously unheard Cobain song here.)
Do you remember the first time you heard a Nirvana record – and knowing that was your father? I’ve talked to Sean Lennon about this. He had a few more years with his dad that you did. But for him, the records were a road into understanding his father after he was gone.
I don’t really like Nirvana that much [grins]. Sorry, promotional people, Universal. I’m more into Mercury Rev, Oasis, Brian Jonestown Massacre [laughs]. The grunge scene is not what I’m interested in. But “Territorial Pissings” [on Nevermind] is a fucking great song. And “Dumb” [on In Utero] – I cry every time I hear that song. It’s a stripped-down version of Kurt’s perception of himself – of himself on drugs, off drugs, feeling inadequate to be titled the voice of a generation.
Via Rolling Stone
On October 30th, 1992, Nirvana were booked to play a major show in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is one of the shows that every band gets to have in their career. Everything went strikingly wrong – the sound, the opening band not connecting, the crowd and on and on. I’m sure Nirvana couldn’t get out of the city fast enough.
Kurt later shared his memories of the gig:
“When we played Buenos Aires, we brought this all-girl band over from Portland called Calamity Jane,” Kurt recalled. “During their entire set, the whole audience—it was a huge show with like sixty thousand people—was throwing money and everything out of their pockets, mud and rocks, just pelting them. Eventually the girls stormed off crying. It was terrible, one of the worst things I’ve ever seen, such a mass of sexism all at once. Krist, knowing my attitude about things like that, tried to talk me out of at least setting myself on fire or refusing to play. We ended up having fun, laughing at them (the audience). Before every song, I’d play the intro to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and then stop. They didn’t realize that we were protesting against what they’d done. We played for about forty minutes, and most of the songs were off Incesticide, so they didn’t recognize anything. We wound up playing the secret noise song (‘Endless, Nameless’) that’s at the end of Nevermind, and because we were so in a rage and were just so pissed off about this whole situation, that song and whole set were one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.” (from Nirvana: The Chosen Rejects)
So, gather up some popcorn for 2 hours of a show that owed almost nothing to its creators and everything to a colossal bad vibe.
Combining home movies and clippings from the archives, Montage of Heck tells the story of Kurt Cobain’s struggle to balance his desire for the spotlight with his hatred of fame. In this clip Cobain’s diaries reveal some of the names Nirvana toyed with before deciding on the moniker they’d use to define a musical era.
Cobain: Montage of Heck is out in the UK in cinemas from April 10, available on digital download on April 24 and on DVD and Blu-ray from April 27, and premieres in the US on HBO on May 4.
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck—the first officially sanctioned Kurt Cobain documentary, which makes its televised premiere on HBO on May 4. Courtney Love and his family opened Cobain’s private archives to the director, as well as providing candid interviews, alongside Krist Novoselic and Kurt’s former girlfriend Tracy Marander. Frances Bean Cobain sits in as executive producer.
Noisey: Recently you said you feel the next generation will make a Kurt/Nirvana doc that’s different from yours. How do you feel my generation’s perception of Kurt differs from yours? Being that he wasn’t alive when I listened to Nirvana…
Brett Morgen: Well, I think that it’s only a cultural difference, because we experienced Kurt at that time as someone who ushered in this sort of shifting cultural landscape. It’s like, Nirvana showed up, and then Bush and Reagan were swept out of the White House, then Kurt died and the Republicans took over. But the reason why he resonates with us is the same reason he resonates with your generation. Kurt will always provide comfort and be a sort of flagship for the freaks, the geeks, the disenfranchised, the beaten and down trodden, and the underdog.
Kurt was able to express his experience as a teenager through music, and articulate it lyrically better than anyone in the last 40 years of culture at least. Possibly ever. There will always be kids who feel alone. It helps that he’s absolutely gorgeous, and is never going to get a day older, and the music fucking kicked ass. He had an amazing ear for songs. You put that all together… I mean, one thing nobody would ever say about Kurt is that he was a sellout. He wasn’t. There’s a purity to him that is rare in pop music, because generally to make pop music involves a certain creative compromise. That wasn’t part of Kurt’s vocabulary.
So you think Kurt wasn’t chasing fame—that his intentions were more pure than that?
Kurt was really after acceptance. He sought it out initially through family, and then through the band, back when he started putting together bands. Then through Tracy, his girlfriend. And then with Courtney. I think he was ambitious and he also sought acceptance through fame, but he didn’t know what that meant. The bottom line is, if you don’t feel good about yourself, having the whole world tell you you’re beautiful and you’re amazing, doesn’t really make you feel better. In fact, it makes you feel worse. It’s like, Kurt’s deal with fame was that he didn’t know what that meant. In his mind, the ceiling for a band like Nirvana was 200,000 albums, like being Sonic Youth. So, he didn’t know—there was no scenario or plan to sell 600,000 albums in a week.
There are so many misconceptions about Kurt, which is especially clear after seeing the movie, what do you think is most misunderstood about him?
There are certain people who dismiss him just because they feel like we shouldn’t even be talking about him. In their minds, he only did three albums, and why are we still talking about him? Those who dismiss him as a whiny white guy who got all this fame and complained about it, it’s like, “Shut the fuck up, dude.” Hopefully when the audience sees the movie, and they arrive at the point where Kurt adopts some of those beats, they’ll greet it a little differently. See, what you get with the concept of the film is, it’s not a guy who’s just being abrasive to the media to be punk, or because he’s a whiny white guy, it’s that he’s an artist, and he doesn’t really want to explain his work. He’d rather people experience it. At the point where he’s selling 600,000 albums in a week, I don’t really think Kurt felt the need to sell any more. So the idea that he would schedule an interview to promote something like that—he doesn’t need any more promotion. It started to make music feel like a job for him. It wasn’t pure anymore. That’s just my sense.
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